Paul Dunne shook off a huge demon in winning last week and now is primed to shake off another in grabbing a share of the lead on day one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
The brilliant winner of last week’s British Masters eagled the ninth hole and picked-up four birdies in bright but cold and windy conditions on the Old Course at St. Andrews, one of three host venues in the $US 5m pro/amateur event.
The Irishman joined Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, who fought back from a horror triple bogey ‘7’ at the third hole at Kingsbarns Links, to immediately birdie the next three holes before finishing with two more to also card a 67.
Shane Lowry, first last Sunday to congratulate Dunne, is just one stroke back among five players on four-under.
Dunne’s only mistake was dropping a shot at the famed ‘Road Hole’ 17th before missing his birdie attempt at the last on a bright but bitter day that saw the 24-year old wrapped in three layers.
“It felt a lot different teeing-up as a European Tour winner as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday just flew-by this week,” he said.
“It felt good and my game still feels good, and I got onto the first tee still feeling confident with my swing and the win does take the pressure off you.
“My iron play was very solid and while it was a disappointing finish, in general all things feel good and life is pretty good at the minute.”
The new World No. 88 ranked Dunne was competing at St. Andrews for a first occasion in over two years after leading the Open (not British) Championship heading into the last round.
However, after his dramatic victory less than a week ago, that included birding his closing two holes to deny World No. 6 Rory McIlroy, the more-confident sounding Greystone’s golfer would dearly love to rid himself of that 2015 Open demon.
“Leading the Open was a good thing for me as it opened so many doors in terms of sponsors and invitations but then how many times are you going to lead The Open at St. Andrews with a round to go?” he said.
“It was a situation I wasn’t comfortable in at the time and may have overwhelmed me but I am in a place now to be able to deal with it, so I have more good memories than bad.”
Lowry capped his round by birding both the first and last holes after coming in off seventh place last week behind Dunne.
Graeme McDowell posted a dozen straight pars before playing his last six in three-under at St. Andrews while Gavin Moynihan was at nearby Kingsbarns Links making steady progress at two-under par 70.
Former Dunhill-double winner Padraig Harrington signed for a 72 at St. Andrews, one less than the struggling Rory McIlroy, who posted a disappointing 73.
Meanwhile in Jordan…
Darren Clarke is seven shots off the pace heading to day two of the inaugural three-day MENA Tour event in Jordan.
Clarke, and patron of the Tour, was two under after three holes but then played the next 15 in five over with two birdies, a double bogey and a triple bogey in a three-over 76.